H.G. Wells' classic novel The War of the Worlds is a far cry from the film or the radio broadcast (by Orson Wells) of the same name. In England at the turn of the century, the observation of bright fires on Mars over several nights sets off mild speculation until large metallic cylinders begin crashing down about the English countryside. The cylinders are found to have a lid at one end that unscrews once sufficiently cooled. The Martians appear and the killing starts. The Martians are weak and blob-like organisms under Earth's considerably higher gravitational pull. They are compensated by the oxygen rich atmosphere on Earth and the fact that they have large, nearly 100 foot tall tripod-like machines that move rapidly, shoot out a heat ray, and eject canisters of poisonous black smoke. In other words it is not much of a war, it is a rout and London and it's surrounding suburbs take quite a beating.
The narrative story follows the fate of two brothers respectively who scramble to make their way into, out of and around London during the 15 day siege. Wells expounds his negative views of the nature of man through the ranting of a cleric, a megalomaniac artilleryman, and various other unsavory characters who behave badly under duress. Eventually the bad Martians (and their rapidly growing red cactus-like plants that have hitched a ride too) succumb to everyday bacteria that humans through natural selection have grown immune to. This book is wordier and more philosophical than present day science fiction.
This report prepared by David Fletcher